1867 – Human Behavior and Entrepreneurship with Peter Sorgenfrei

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the CEO & Founder Coach of Sorgenfrei ApS, Peter Sorgenfrei.

Sorgenfrei Wide

Peter Sorgenfrei is a seasoned entrepreneur and coach intimately familiar with the solitary path of a founder. With six companies and clients in seven countries, Peter's extensive experience ranges from a plastic bag manufacturer in Romania to a tech startup in California, where he has been instrumental in guiding CEOs and founders through business complexities.

Peter Sorgenfrei specializes in human behavior and the personal challenges that founders encounter. He recognizes the stressful nature of entrepreneurship and offers his services as a psychologist, motivator, and strategic partner, tailoring his approach to meet the unique needs of each founder.

Peter has observed common patterns among entrepreneurs, such as imposter syndrome, co-founder relationships, and the management of boards and investors. His coaching is customized to confront these challenges directly, equipping founders with the necessary tools for success.

Peter strongly emphasizes founders' mental and emotional well-being, stressing the importance of distinguishing personal identity from professional roles. He offers practical advice for stress management, including exercise, meditation, diet, and sleep, which are crucial for maintaining a healthy mindset and improving business performance.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Sales strategies for agency owners, consultants, coaches, and B2B service providers
  • The role of a founder and CEO in navigating business challenges
  • Specialization in human behavior and personal development for founders and CEOs
  • Common patterns and challenges faced by founders and CEOs
  • Managing mental health and stress in the entrepreneurial role
  • Strategies for managing anxiety and depression in the business world
  • Addressing substance abuse and addiction among CEOs
  • The impact of online content and social media on entrepreneurs

About Peter Sorgenfrei:

Peter Sorgenfrei is a seasoned coach assisting CEOs and founders with personal and professional development. With over 43,000 followers on LinkedIn and recognition as a LinkedIn Top Voice, Sorgenfrei has established a significant online presence. He also runs a popular weekly newsletter, “Intentional Leadership,” with over 10,000 subscribers.

Peter's career spans 15 years of founding and leading companies in the US, UK, and Denmark, experiencing both small-scale and sizeable multi-country team leadership. Sorgenfrei's journey includes overcoming a personal crisis, leading him to advocate for the Whole Human Approach.

This philosophy emphasizes a balanced life, integrating professional ambitions with mental, physical, and relational well-being. Sorgenfrei's extensive international experience and personal insights equip him to offer valuable advice and strategies to his clients, promoting both professional success and personal harmony.

About Sorgenfrei ApS:

Sorgenfrei ApS is a personal and professional development consultancy that supports CEOs and founders through professional challenges and personal growth. The service offers comprehensive support, whether clients face tactical dilemmas or strategic decision-making, regardless of their perceived need for guidance.

The core mission is to assist leaders in navigating the complexities of running a company while maintaining a balanced, healthy, and fulfilling life. This involves managing the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and addressing internal struggles and interpersonal dynamics. The consultancy's hands-on approach involves regular meetings, written communications, and discussions as needed, emphasizing a commitment to rigorous, serious, and intense engagement.

Clients are encouraged to commit fully to their development path, including personalized homework assignments aimed at behavior change and recommendations for reading and listening to foster growth. Sorgenfrei ApS distinguishes itself through radical transparency and constructive candor, guiding clients to find and trust their inner answers rather than providing direct solutions.

Tweetable Moments:

03:50 – “There's a disproportionate amount of founders and CEOs who are actually battling anxiety and depression because of the stresses of the role and of the job.”

17:34 – “People need to have a life outside of work. They know it, similar to how they know they need to diet and exercise; they just don't do it.”

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Sorgenfrei ApS website at

Check out Sorgenfrei ApS LinkedIn at

Check out Sorgenfrei ApS Instagram at

Check out Peter Sorgenfrei on LinkedIn at

Check out Peter Sorgenfrei on Instagram at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence. Com and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence. Com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. Peter Sorkin Frei Peter, you are co-founder and coach. You are found on the web at Peter Sorkin, fry, dot com Sorkin, fry by the way. To our friends or our uninitiated who are trying to guess at the spelling, my recommendation is just kind of click around on the show notes.

Josh (00:01:16) - You'll find the spelling Peter. There's not too many of you. So if you just do a Google search for Peter Sorgenfrei, you're going to come up as well. But it's great to have you.

Peter (00:01:25) - Thanks for having me.

Josh (00:01:26) - Well, share just a bit about the work that you do and kind of your impact in the world.

Peter (00:01:31) - So after having built six companies over the last 20 years, I realized that as a founder and CEO, it's quite the lonely role. You do have a board, you have investors, co-founders, that kind of thing. But but you really do need something. Somebody to talk to, who can, who can help you along the way with some of the tough questions that you might face. So four years ago I started doing that. And now I have clients in seven countries, anything from a plastic bag manufacturer in Romania to a hot flying tech startup in California. And I just worked directly with founders and CEOs, helping them navigate their businesses.

Josh (00:02:03) - Yeah, any I mean, obviously there's a lot of things to do in a business, any kind of areas in particular that you specialize in.

Peter (00:02:11) - Yeah, it's more about human behavior, really. It's about the role of founder CEO and how you handle yourself on a personal level. So many of us, as we build companies, go through ups and downs, and unfortunately, it's quite a stressful endeavor to do so. I'm equal parts psychologist, equal parts kick in the pants, equal parts sort of strategy partner. It really depends on what's on the mind of the founder that I'm working with.

Josh (00:02:35) - Yeah. So where do you find? Are there any common patterns that you tend to see over and over again that you're like, yep. Seeing this before. And guess what? I'm pretty adept at this. Here we go.

Peter (00:02:47) - Well, there's a number of things. One is the imposter syndrome that we all talked about, right. Where founders sometimes find it incredible that they actually can do what they can do and start doubting themselves. There is the co-founder relationship that I work a lot on. There's managing your board, managing your investors. There's handling crises in terms of laying off your staff and how to deal with that in a proper way.

Peter (00:03:08) - And then, of course, as you're expanding, figuring out how to hire and how to do that, well, as you're scaling your company from from two in the garage to several hundred people across the world.

Josh (00:03:18) - Yeah. So in terms of mental health, I would imagine that there's probably a lot of common ways that it might feel right. You know, they might be just thinking about now, just in addition to the stressors or the things that are happening in the, you know, kind of the typical business founder lifestyle, how do you see that manifested just from kind of like a, again, kind of an emotional or mental health perspective, behavioral, like how might we be feeling or what what do you see?

Peter (00:03:50) - There's a disproportionate amount of founders and CEOs who are actually battling anxiety and depression because of the stresses of the role and of the job. So some of the things I work with people initially on is to kind of separate ourselves from the role that that's not who we are and figure out who am I actually, as I go into the business world, and then I give them tips and techniques to manage, whether it be having an exercise regime, whether it be meditation, food, sleep, that kind of thing.

Peter (00:04:15) - And once we get a handle on on the mental side of the individual, then we start working on the business side and seeing how we can improve performance.

Josh (00:04:23) - Yeah. Why do you mention exes? Just kind of throwing yourself ball here. But why do you mention exercise and meditation? And I wonder if you ever get pushback on that, like, oh, come on, is that really going to make a big difference?

Peter (00:04:38) - Well, actually, I was the one pushing back when I was taught 5 or 6 years ago to start meditating. I'm like,, you know, this new age stuff, what is that going to do? But the magic happens. Even if you spend a couple of minutes by yourself in silence every day, you start seeing things clearer. You start becoming more aware of what's actually happening. And you're not just a passenger on this train that you're supposed to be running. So most people know that they need to exercise, but the way they do it is they start doing triathlons and ultramarathons and all this ape, you know, personality stuff.

Peter (00:05:07) - And my point is that's actually hurting you. What you need to be doing is less, but consistently. So the first thing that goes out the window when people become stressed related to building their companies is diet, health and sleep. And so I basically just get them back to knowing what they need to know and then to do it.

Josh (00:05:26) - And I would imagine that there's likely things that maybe you've seen some of your clients lean into. So it could be maybe habits that aren't super helpful. Right. So maybe looking toward,, substances or alcohol as kind of a reprieve, I would imagine you've seen that. And how does that generally what are your observations on that? No judgment, but just, you know, what are your observations on that?

Peter (00:05:54) - Having worked with 200 plus CEOs now over the last number of years,, it is clear there's a pattern of substance abuse and that substance can take many forms. But I'm not a substance abuse expert. So one of the things I do with my clients is obviously I actually make appointments with them so that they go see somebody who can help them with that,, whether it's cocaine or alcohol or other kind of sort of hard drugs or whether, you know, it can also be an addiction to this adrenaline rush through extreme sports.

Peter (00:06:25) - So I get experts to help me with that kind of stuff since I'm not certified in any of those areas.

Josh (00:06:30) - Sir. Well, so, Peter, I think one thing that's pretty helpful is there's a lot of online community and potentially camaraderie online. And that can come obviously from, you know, content that we might be consuming. Certainly there's a lot of folks or voices, I should say, on social media, podcast, YouTube, that sort of thing. I mean, that's that's a good thing., do you see any negatives from, you know, maybe the the world as it presents itself to the kind of the entrepreneur?

Peter (00:07:04) - Well, I see a couple of negatives. Ones is a lot of people propose that it's quite easy to do this. You just need to do these five things every day. You're going to succeed, right? And everybody knows that that's not the case. But when you're perpetuity seeing that, you start believing it and then you start doubting yourself because I'm like, well, I did these things and I'm not successful.

Peter (00:07:21) - Am I a failure? Right? So that's number one. Number two is I think people consume too much content around building companies instead of actually doing things. So one of the things I work with my clients on is taking small actions every single day. And it could just be one thing, you know, having something that you do, but doing it consistently actually changes your business, regardless of what Alex Hermosa or Steven Bartlett or all sorts of other very capable people are putting out there. Gary is another one, right? I love those guys, but it doesn't help you actually run and build a company. What helps you run and build a company is doing stuff in your business, and you can even do that in isolation. You don't need to consume all this content. So what I say to people is create rather than consume. Whenever you find yourself trapped and scrolling an Insta feed with well-meaning advice.

Josh (00:08:09) - Yeah. It happens. So speaking of content, though, you'd mentioned a few. Are there any books that you find yourself commonly recommending? Maybe not specifically based on a, you know, but just, you know, books that you seem to universally come back to over and over again that you recommend.

Peter (00:08:28) - The one I always bring up is a sense of where You are, which is written by Bill Bradley, a former US senator and basketball player. And it's actually about basketball, but it has a lot of corollary to the business world understanding who you are, what your role is, and then doing that role well without necessarily believing you should be the next Kobe Bryant, or believing you should be the next Michael Jordan., so that's the book that I highlight a lot. And then generally I tend to to encourage people to read more philosophy and historical fiction or historical biographies, because all the stuff that's in business books gives you tactics that you then feel like you need to deploy without actually considering why you need to deploy them. Whereas the other stuff makes you think about the world in a different way. And that's what creates remarkable companies.

Josh (00:09:18) - Yeah. Okay, so, Peter, tell me a bit about, like, how you work. I mean, what does coaching look like? I mean, typically what stage and business would you would you find your leader in before.

Josh (00:09:31) - Maybe they may be ready for how you could help.

Peter (00:09:35) - So typically my clients are between the ages of 35 and 50. They are normally serial entrepreneur. So either they're, you know, 4 or 5, six years into their first venture or they've done a couple and they're now in their second and third. They're profitable or funded companies, typically, because working with somebody like me is an expense, of course. And they come to me because they find themselves struggling. They find themselves either struggling at home with their personal relationships, with their marriages, their partnerships, or they find themselves struggling in the business. And as they come through the front door, we initiate by having a fairly in-depth questionnaire around their entire life. I mean, I ask them about drug abuse, right? I ask them about the relationship to their parents, and I ask them about their business, of course. And then most engagements are three months in duration. We meet every single week. I give people homework. I record stuff they need to listen to, and I am available 24 over seven in between our meetings.

Peter (00:10:31) - So that's that's a typical engagement.

Josh (00:10:34) - Yeah. Your website is Peter Sorkin Fry. Com and, also I would mention that you share some pretty good content on LinkedIn. In fact, before I ask you about that, one thing that you had recently posted on was and then I wonder how this comes up, particularly when you're dealing with a board, when you're dealing with a leadership team is kind of that, you know, honesty, you know, or just like, you know, would you rather have an uncomfortable truth from a friend, or would you rather have them tell you a comfortable lie? And I think intellectually, most of us would probably say, I'll take the uncomfortable truth. But in reality, sometimes it's, you know, it's a bitter pill to take.

Peter (00:11:16) - It is a bitter pill. But I think if you think about that, if you just reflect about that for a second or two, you actually do want the uncomfortable truth, right? Because the worst thing is not knowing where you stand in relation to somebody else.

Peter (00:11:29) - Yeah. So I'd rather you just tell me, hey, Peter, you're blabbering too much. I need shorter, more poignant answers. Great, now I can improve even though it hurts my ego. Then you saying, Peter, you were amazing. And then you turn around like this guy was needing it, right? So when you reflect on that question, you do want that. And I think you get that by actually telling people, saying, listen, I will never as a CEO and founder, a lot of people treat you differently than if you're just a regular employee, right? They kind of look up to you and they want to manage you a little bit, but you have to tell your team saying, guys, I want the unvarnished truth all the time, even when I do something stupid, because without that, we don't have the trust. Without that, we cannot build a company. And I will never come back to you for telling truth to my face. But I will be upset if you don't, if you're not honest with me.

Peter (00:12:19) - So if you set that barrier from the start, most people are like, great, I can speak my mind. And then of course, you have to follow up through your actions and not retaliate, as it were, against the truth sayers which most young leaders today actually understand. And they actually do. It's more a generational issue, I think.

Josh (00:12:35) - Yeah. Yeah. You know, last thing, I think, you know, behaviorally or, you know, things that you might see is what is your view of. And I know that this can vary wildly depending on the personality around boundaries. Right. Do you see any patterns or common? I don't know, just beliefs around, you know, what entrepreneurs may allow or kind of how they structure their life in terms of, you know, either devoting way too much of their personality or attention to their business and not setting personal boundaries for that, and then have that come back and maybe, I don't know, put it kind of put them out of balance a little bit.

Josh (00:13:14) - Kind of sounds like a little bit like what you're talking about earlier with the,, Bill Bradley,, concept.

Peter (00:13:22) - Yeah. So I think it's commonly known. Right. This whole idea of work life balance. And it's a struggle for many entrepreneurs because not only is there a lot to do, but you're also mentally and emotionally invested and consumed by what you're doing. So typically everything becomes the business. I actually don't talk about work life balance. I talk about work life integration. Because when you think about it, you know, today I don't know how your day was was spent. So far. It's early in the morning, your time. But I'm sure you're going to do some personal phone calls or deal with some personal stuff throughout your day while you're conducting yourself and doing these interviews and doing your business. And so realizing that it's okay that I do a little bit of personal stuff and a little bit of business stuff in the other sphere, and be okay with that is a way to start accepting that that's how your life is going to be, but many people can administer it.

Peter (00:14:07) - So then we set really clear boundaries around phone use. For example, most of my clients, they're not allowed to be on their phone and I say they are not allowed because that's how I govern before 8:00 am in the morning and they're not allowed to be on on their phone after 8 p.m. at night period. So that time they have to fill with other activities. And in the beginning that's a struggle. Like, who am I if I'm not going to be sitting and writing stuff to my board at 9:00 at night? Well, buddy, we're going to figure that out. Are you the guy that reads a book at that point? Are you the guy that actually goes on those date nights that you want to do with your spouse, but that you forget because you're stressed out and in the morning, are you the guy that starts doing yoga now because it's good for you and actually you want to, instead of getting up, hitting two espressos and starting out pounding out emails, right? So it's a journey for most people to actually come back to what they want to be.

Peter (00:14:56) - And the boundaries help us do that.

Josh (00:14:58) - Yeah. You know, it's kind of like, I think a well-used vacation is generally going to,, impact my performance significantly when I get back if I truly unplugged during that time. So I think we're familiar with that concept. And I would argue that the same thing goes in our daily life as well. You know, it was really, I would say probably not until a handful of years ago that I really started appreciating personal hobbies and, you know, things where I can really go down the rabbit hole. So I got into gardening and got into cooking. And, you know, now I would consider myself a okay amateur cook., and, and then I picked up the bass guitar here. You know, I just turned,, 52 and,, you know, here I am playing the bass guitar for the first time in my life, and I play probably a good 45 minutes a day. And, you know, I've now got a repertoire of 50 or 60 songs that I can play, which is kind of cool and that, that act alone like.

Josh (00:15:58) - And I really had to force myself. It was during Covid. Then I'm like, listen, I got to start doing stuff for me because otherwise, you know, when someone asks this question of like, you know, who am I? Or what do I do? You know, I don't instantly just say, well, I'm going to talk about my work for 30 or 45 seconds. I'm like, I'll get to that. In the mix of describing other things, you know, now, today and hobbies were really helpful for me.

Peter (00:16:24) - And it's great that you mentioned that, because that's another thing we work on. And when somebody says, you know, so what do you do? The response is not, well, I'm the CEO of this, that and the other. The response is actually, I spend time gardening in the afternoon and I've got really good at it. And what happens in that dialogue with somebody, even in a networking conference, people expect you to say, hey, I'm the founder of of my influence.

Peter (00:16:46) - But then they're like gardening. Their brain changes and they see Josh the human, not Josh, the founder of my influence. And so the interaction becomes different. And guess what? They remember you. They were like, this was a guy that is kind of like the guy I want to be. And so you create closer connection with people when you do that. So that's the thing people should do. And honestly, we need to teach, you know, you and I, I turned 50 this year. We're further ahead in our careers. So when a young founder, a 35 year old founder sits in front of me and only talks about work, I'm like, wait a minute, how did you spend your time in college? Oh, I was coding. Okay. Well, how did you spend your time in high school? Oh, I was this volleyball player. I. I traveled to this stuff. I'm like, all right, let's get back there and make sure that you start doing that as a 36 and 37 year old, because that's what's going to make you a better business person over time.

Peter (00:17:34) - You don't know that today, but me, with 15 plus more years experience, can tell you that's the case., yeah. So people need to have a life outside of work. They know it similar to how they know they need to diet and exercise. They just don't do it. And therefore sometimes they need somebody like me to give them a kick in the pants to get it done.

Josh (00:17:52) - Yeah, yeah. Well, listen,, coming from two guys,, Gen Xers,,, again. Yes. Go find a hobby. And you know what? I am absolutely going to do that, Peter, if someone asks. So what do you do? I'm going to answer. Well, I love to garden.

Peter (00:18:08) - When I started saying, actually, I don't do much because there was a period of my life where I wasn't doing much like what now? And I'm like, no, actually that's not true. I've written a book. You know, I'm the process of writing book number two.

Peter (00:18:20) - , I like to do these things. And then they're like, well, what do you do for money? I'm like, oh, okay, well, I do this thing. Oh, right. So that became a secondary.

Josh (00:18:28) - Yeah. Your website. Peter. Africom. What was your book? Peter, I'm so sorry. I didn't see this here on your website here.

Peter (00:18:35) - No, it's not on the website. I actually don't know if I want to publish it yet, but I'll tell you about it. So I've written to I've written a novel, which is a crime story, around an accident at a construction site here in Copenhagen., and then I've written a business book about how to hire and manage high performance teams in a startup environment there. None of them are published yet, but. Oh, okay, a little luck., sometime this year maybe. We'll see. Great.

Josh (00:18:59) - Your website. Peter. Com to a friend that's been listening to our conversation, what would you recommend their next steps be?

Peter (00:19:06) - Think about if they need somebody in their life to talk to.

Peter (00:19:08) - And if it's not somebody like me, find somebody else with whom they can be completely vulnerable about what's going on in their business life, it will help them.

Josh (00:19:17) - Absolutely, indeed. Peter. So try again. Your website Peter. Com when somebody goes to your website, there is a contact form there to reach out and it looks like you produce a newsletter. And then I would again recommend following Peter on your LinkedIn because you do share some really good content there. So Peter Sorgenfrei again, CEO and Founder and coach, thank you so much for joining us.

Peter (00:19:42) - Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure.

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